‘Subtle, unassuming, understated’ – these words define a small yet very popular Japanese restaurant that takes pride in its authenticity. Located on the corner of Guerrero and 18th Street in San Francisco, the venue opened in 2011 as Yuzuki Izakaya, and recently changed its name to reflect a more sophisticated approach. Stepping inside the high-ceilinged dining room with white and persimmon color scheme, artistic drawings of vegetables on a white wall, and gauzy fabric curtain room dividers is like being immediately transported to Japan.
Dinnerware of Japanese ceramics, cedar chopsticks from eco-friendly Japanese plantations, and cloth napkins made of colorful print cotton, as well as a collection of sake bottles on display in front of the kitchen window add to the genuine feel of the Yuzuki Japanese Eatery.Executive Chef Kentaro Ikuta and proprietor Yuko Hayashi put on the menu monthly changing offerings, daily specials and the newly added omakase option, available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, that needs to be ordered a week in advance.
Dropping in on a casual Sunday night, we started with a delightfully cool Junmai sake from an extensive sake menu. Dewatsuru Kimoto from Dewatsuru brewery in Akita is full-bodied, mellow, and has a hint of mushroom aroma. Its higher acidity comes from a labor- and time-intensive method of preparation, and it pairs well with food.
The signature house-made tofu is produced utilizing traditional techniques, rarely followed elsewhere. Organic soybeans are soaked overnight and then cooked, squeezed and filtered to make soy milk that is steamed with Nigari (sea brine). The delicate, white and silky fresh tofu is served with flaky sea salt to be added to taste on the table.
Fried eggplant in broth is another subtle yet distinct starter – soaked in fish broth with soy, garlic, and sesame seeds.
From the Grilled section of the menu comes Yaki Surume Ika – “Salt Koji” marinated Hokkaido squid. A full invertebrate – body grilled, tentacles deep fried – comes thinly sliced, restored to its original form on the plate, accompanied with a side of house-made yuzu mayonnaise, and wildly delicious.
Among the Crispy items Kara-age Chicken – “Salt Koji” marinated fried chicken acquires a special golden hue, tastes positively succulent, and is garnished with shishito peppers and house-pickled vegetables that change often and can include cucumbers, Japanese radish, and golden beets.
Rice at Yuzuki Japanese Eatery is not your regular rice. Koshihikari rice grown in Central Valley, California, is cooked in Japanese earthen pot for two, and the menu asks to allow 30 minutes for its preparation. Seasonal Rice ingredients change with seasons, and our “today’s special” pot of fragrant rice included chicken, fried tofu, carrots, burdock root, fish broth, and herbs.
We had a refreshing ginger sorbet sprinkled with candied ginger for dessert – a fitting finale for a beautifully served, tasty, and satisfying meal.
Yuzuki Japanese Eatery is located at 598 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, California. Dinner is served Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Call for reservations (415) 556-9898 or visit www.yuzukisf.com.